A memorial to a Sarnia Police officer gunned down in a shootout with a notorious bank robber will be unveiled in downtown Sarnia on Sept. 30.
On May 23, 1936, Const. Jack Lewis arrived to find the liquor store at 140 Christina St. N. being robbed by Norman (Red) Ryan and his sidekick Harry Checkley.
With two dozen patrons still inside the store, Lewis was shot and killed within seconds of arriving at the scene. He became the first on-duty Sarnia Police officer killed in the line of duty.
Jack Lewis left behind a wife, Vera, and two young children. But his sacrifice has long been overshadowed by the notoriety of the man who killed him, a gun blazing in each hand.
The legend and notoriety of Red Ryan, who also died that day, has only grown over the ensuing 82 years, while the name of Jack Lewis has been largely forgotten outside his family and fellow officers.
Now, that is about to change, thanks to the Sarnia Historical Society and president Ron RealeSmith.
On Sunday, Sept. 30, at 1 p.m., the public and peace officers from throughout the region will attend the unveiling of a plaque memorializing Lewis’ sacrifice at 140 Front St.
Part of Christina Street will be closed to traffic and seating provided for about 30 Lewis family members.
Uniformed peace officers from the region will attend a 10 a.m. multi-faith service that day at Redeemer Lutheran Church, while members of Sarnia Police, Royal Canadian Legion and Historical Society will speak about Lewis from lecterns in churches across the city.
Sept. 30 was chosen because it is Police and Peace Officers’ National Memorial Day.
After the Society asked the former Ontario Attorney General for funding and was turned down, three anonymous donors came forward and provided $4,500 to pay for the memorial.
Another anonymous donor gave the Society $1,000 to host a reception for Lewis family members at the Sarnia Legion hall after the dedication.
Anyone from the public who wants to meet them is welcome to attend the cash bar reception.